Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If You Follow Me-Malena Watrous

If You Follow Me
Malena Watrous
Harper, Mar 9 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061732850

American girlfriends Marina and Carolyn move to Shika, Japan to teach English to Japanese students. Although in Japan struggling to understand trash collection methods, the two female Yanks also have a hard time learning the native language. Still they teach in the same classroom with Hiroshi the translator assisting them.

The pair squabbles at times over what seems afterward mostly inane like what to do with the garbage while reflecting how they met at a grief support group. In fact Marina went on this trip so she could find some closure and move beyond her father’s death. As Marina turns to Hiroshi as a friend and to her students as a mental escape, Carolyn withdraws from her, the students and their translator. Ironically while Carolyn grieves deeper for her loss, Marina feels her father’s encouraging presence pleading with her to live life to the fullest.

If You Follow Me is a wonderful character driven tale of two Americans in Japan reacting to the culture shock in dramatically opposite directions. Marina and Carolyn are fully developed protagonists with the former embracing the country and the latter retreating from the country. The comparisons between the two Americans refresh an often told tale of an individual coping with a dramatic change in lifestyle (see Love In Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga).

Harriet Klausner

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